Scotland Trip: T-3 Days: Preparation, Panic Attacks, and Traveling with Puppies

Greetings!  It has been nearly a week since I last wrote.  I apologize, especially since I did wish to post each day, but (excuse alert) life got busy, and I’m still working on making blogging a habit.  So, this is going to be a long post.  Buckle your seat belts.

The weekend was full of activities, kicked off by my brother’s arrival home from army technical training, and my frantic cleaning and organizing of the house as I prepared for his home coming and my friend’s visit on Friday.  Among all of the scrubbing, vacuuming, and putting away, I somehow found time to call the vet and USDA to schedule appointments and ask questions about Oleta’s paperwork, ensure I had all of the paperwork, print and label the paperwork in braille, and have periodic anxiety attacks about whether everything would go smoothly with Oleta’s information.  Okay, not actual panic attacks, just, “Oh dear, is this actually going to work out?  Do I need to call someone to take care of Oleta for four weeks?” sort of attacks.

Our vet appointment Friday afternoon went fairly well.  Oleta currently ways about 54 pounds.  The kind, USDA accredited doctor at our home vet gave Oleta the once over, declared her healthy, and filled out most of the information regarding Oleta’s background and current state.  It asks questions about her breed and birth information, place of origin, current residence (with me of course), recent vaccine history (especially rabies), and micro chip details, among other things.  We could not fill out the rabies information, as I had forgotten her original rabies certificate, given to me by our vet in Nashville, but she assured me that as long as I brought the certificate to the USDA appointment Monday morning, things should run smoothly.  The appointment didn’t last too long, and soon we headed out with signed papers and a bone-shaped tapeworm treatment tablet for Oleta to take the following week (one of the EU’s many precautions).  That evening was relaxing, spent with my dear friend from high school summer camp, and with my family.  Saturday morning was our neighborhood garage sail (I made 7 dollars… yes!), and my friend and I entertained a few of our potential buyers with improvised renditions of “Amazing Grace” and “Christ be Our Light”, with she playing beautifully on violin, and I on guitar and vocals.  It was a lovely time.

After her departure, I resumed my search for the rabies certificate, which, no matter how many dorm room boxes and bags I sifted through, did not show itself.  I became progressively more concerned and agitated, which culminated in a brief crying session in my room, due to my pure frustration that I hadn’t put the rabies certificate somewhere safe enough that I could actually find it when I needed it.  It wasn’t a good few hours.  Let’s just say that.

I eventually forgot my troubles in a nice lunch, and a spontaneous evening rafting trip with my brothers, Dad, and Uncle, and decided that I would contact the Nashville vet on Monday to see if they could fax the certificate directly to the USDA that morning.

Sunday however, the negative thoughts returned, and I began berating myself all over again.  How could I possibly be responsible enough to go on a mission trip of all things if I couldn’t even keep track of a piece of paper?  What if they don’t accept a faxed certificate from the vet’s office?  Will I have to call Guiding Eyes and find a place for Oleta to go for four weeks?  Why couldn’t I have just put that certificate in my binder right away?  I’m such a failure!

The thoughts were paralyzing, sickening, and they were stopping me from concentrating on the more important things—putting my faith in Christ and preparing for the trip through study and prayer.  It eventually came to me that perhaps these thoughts weren’t all coming directly from me.  I’m being attacked, I realized suddenly.  Since my salvation, I have always experienced serious spiritual warfare, but they have always been very frontal attacks.  This was something more subtle, and it had caught me off guard.  Still, I know well that the only weapon against spiritual warfare is the Word.  I gritted my teeth, googled bible gateway, and read until I could read no more.  By the time I shut my laptop and let it slide gently to the floor, my faith was restored,; I could forgive my mistakes, and place the situation in God’s hands.  I’m ever so glad God led me to do that, because it made the events of the following morning all the sweeter.

We left for our appointment at the USDA bright and early, and got there a good amount of time before the scheduled 9:00 Am.  I used the extra time to call the Nashville vet, and request that they fax the rabies form.  Upon signing into the USDA office, it became fairly apparent that the appointment would, in fact, be successful.  The doctor there was perfectly accommodating with regards to the missing rabies sheet, and amiably waited the thirty minutes or so that it took for the fax to arrive.  Finally, I gave Oleta the forward command, and headed out of the federal building with a bundle of stapled, signed, officially stamped papers in my binder.  Praise God!  And I mean that with all the sincerity I can muster!  There’s the scoop!  Oleta’s paperwork is complete, and we are headed to dear old Caledonia on Friday… together!

 

Scotland Trip: Trust IS Taxing!

Today was a busy day, full of emails, phone calls, web research, and more phone calls and emails.  Taking a guide dog to another country is a little bit of a nightmare, and I am feeling the full brunt of that at the moment.  Within the next ten days, I need to fill out several packets of information regarding OLeta’s health, history, and RFID tag, have them all signed and checked by my veterinarian, get an official endorsement from the USDA veterinarian, which is in Richmond, Virginia, and have her tested for tape worm within 5 days of our departure.  Not only that, but I am rather concerned about my charity workers visa, which has not arrived yet, and I can’t help but fear that it might not come in time.  Needless to say, I am a bit frazzled, and ready to hit the hay.  I’ve also come to the conclusion that trusting in God is hard, hard work.  I find that I need constant reminders to put my faith in Him, and believe that whatever He has planned will come to pass.
I promise I will get to a point where I will discuss what I have been reading in Acts, but for tonight, I just wanted to share a few verses that are reminding me to have confidence in what the Lord has planned.  I need not be anxious, because I know He is in control.  I hope they are encouraging to you as well.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1)

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. (Psalm 9:10)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” (Psalm 31:14)

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. (Psalm 20:7)

 

Amen.  Sleep well, dear blogasphere.

 

My Historical Romance, Mount Vernon, and the Key that Unlocks Liberty

Today, I visited the home of one of my biggest crushes of all time.  The man is everything and more a girl could ask for: tall, dashing, kind, talented, incredibly intelligent, down to earth (quite literally), and God-fearing.  The only problem is he’s 263 years my senior, and he’s already happily and beautifully married.  I shall concede to love and admire him from a distance then.

No, I am NOT talking about Edward from Twilight.  Perish the thought!  If you know anything about me at all, you should know that vampirism is NOT on my list of ideal characteristics for my future husband.

I am speaking of the honorable General George Washington, who led America to victory in the revolutionary war, oversaw the creation of the U.S. constitution, and served as our first (and undoubtedly best) president.

Washington’s Mount Vernon estate was purchased and restored by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association in the mid 1800’s, and they have been sustaining it ever since.  The remaining 500 acres of his once 8000 acre property are still furnished with the gardens, forest, fields, flowers, and livestock that Washington managed as a farmer during his lifetime.  It also features the plantation’s many buildings, including the slave quarters, carriage house, black smith, shoe shop, stables, corn crib, treading barn (for threshing wheat), mill and distillery, and of course the gorgeously restored mansion.  Washington is remembered for his incredible service and leadership for our country, but he considered himself a farmer above all other things.  He was a fantastic farmer, always employing new techniques to increase the plantation’s prosperity and productivity.  He utilized crop rotation, in order to use and reuse the fields he had already designated for crop growth, used different types of fencing in revolutionary ways, and created the ingenious treading barn, a building designed for threshing, which used the power of horses to thresh wheat in a much more efficient manner.

And then there is the mansion.

A long, symmetrical building with three sections, with covered porticos connecting them in between, the over 200 year old building is painted with a mixture of sand and paint, which gives the outside of the house the appearance of stone.  Indoors, the rooms come to vibrant life with shades of yellow, green, and red.  Much of the home is original, including paintings, furniture (Washington’s bed, and fancy rolly swivel chair), harpsichord, and china.

Another original hanging in the first floor passageway caught my attention in particular.  It is the key to the French political prison, Bastille, which Washington’s friend Marquis de Lafayette gave to George as a gift, with the words, “It is a tribute, which I owe, as a son to my adoptive father, as an Aide-de-Camp to my General, as a Missionary of liberty to its Patriarch.” – Marquis de Lafayette to George Washington, March 17, 1790 

The key to liberty given to the Father of liberty.

George Washington dedicated his entire life to the service of his country, to protecting and preserving liberty, but even more than that, he dedicated his soul to Christ.  Washington was a Godly man, and found the idea of freedom first in being freed from sin.  That is what inspired him to be the magnificent leader, farmer, husband, human he became.  George Washington reflected well the sort of CHrist-like love, courage, and humility that we all strive for in our walk with GOd.  God, Washington’s leader, is the ultimate father of all life and liberty, and Christ is the key.  Knowing that, I am inspired indeed, and have fallen in love with two marvelous men all over again—George Washington, and more even than him, the true key to liberty, our Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Thank you to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association for the information on the website, and the wonderful tour at the Mount Vernon estate.

(By the way, fun fact: Washington set his slaves free shortly before his death.  He truly did value freedom for all people.)

Mommies, SHeep, and The Good Shepherd

Guess what!  It’s Mother’s day!  I know, it’s a surprise, right?

Today’s the day we thank our awesome Mommies for being there when we needed them, for teaching us how to navigate this big, scary world, for making us meals and taking us to countless practices and events, for being so much more kind, gentle, gracious, humble, selfless, and loving than we ever deserved, and sometimes, even for giving us a taste of what exactly we did deserve.  At least, that’s what I have to thank my Mommy for. 🙂

Today, the sermon, and many of the songs we sang in church, were about Jesus as our good shepherd.  He leads them to green pastures, beside still waters, and sleeps in front of the gate at night to ensure their safety from wolves and thieves in the night.  In everything, His flock is his first priority.  As one of our songs says, “I am the good shepherd.  I know my own and they know me.  I lay down my life for my sheep.” 

Like our awesome Mommies, Jesus loves us so much more than we deserve.  Wee complain, argue, throw temper tantrums, even attack him, but he still loves us.  He too is always, always there for us.  He too shows us the grace, mercy, selflessness, and loving kindness that we all need, but could never earn, and He has shown it to us in the greatest sacrifice of all, in giving His very life.

So maybe we owe God a happy mother’s day too, because isn’t He really the ultimate Mr. Mom?

 

Scotland Trip: FInger printing, Paperwork, and the Nonexistent Quantum Vacuum

Preparing for the Mission Trip and What I’ve Learned So Far

“I need you to stand right over here.” the lady said, guiding me to the proper spot with a gloved hand on my arm. I smiled at her and complied, finding the tall desk with the machine atop it in front of me.
“Left hand please.”
I felt the cool, soggy touch of a paper towel as she wiped off my thumb. She lifted my hand and pressed the digit against the warm glass of the machine, and was rewarded with a business-like, “beep”.
Yes, this was me getting finger printed, and no, not for the reason you are thinking. I am NOT a blind-supremacist criminal. The blind protection agency has turned over a new leaf—I promise.
No, my finger prints were necessary for my charity workers visa, which I need in order to participate in my mission trip to Scotland with RP Missions.
If there is one thing I’ve learned about opportunity, it’s that it’s not always easy. In fact, more often than not, it takes a great deal of preparation, and committed care to carry out. When I felt God calling me to missions back in October, I didn’t really think about all of the pre-cursory work that would need to be done before we entered the field. I was too wrapped up in financial considerations to think much about travel plans, team instruction, or spiritual development. That is, I knew they were all part of the process, but I underestimated the way they would affect my second semester as a whole.
It all began in late December, as I filled out the online application, wrote the required essays, and secured recommendation letters. I had already decided that the calling I had felt to missions work was legitimate, but actually submitting the application made the whole thing real to me. Suddenly, I felt rather like I was jumping off an airplane, without quite knowing how to release the parachute. This particular leap of faith was going to take more faith than I had realized.
The next weeks were crowded with activities, as I returned to Nashville and resumed my many collegiate pursuits: attending class, studying, practicing, performing, studying, occasionally cleaning, and practicing (Did I mention practicing?). Soon, it was late February, and readying for our mission trips began in
earnest. We received emails instructing us about how to handle fund raising, how to go about making travel plans, and the paperwork we would need in order to travel overseas. We also began attending weekly, online training sessions, led by RP Missions’ wonderful director Mat Filbert, where we learn about various topics related to missions, from discussing the very purpose of missionary work, to exploring some of the challenges we might encounter during our time there and how we might overcome them. Our sessions have been useful too, in that they have in many ways informed my personal preparation time. Not only were the missionary handbook and reading list they provided helpful, but their suggestion to go through the book of Acts has been instrumental for me. I don’t know why, but it never previously occurred to me that studying the way Jesus’ earliest followers handled missions might be a good way to figure out how to do it myself. (Don’t judge me, I’m a blonde)
Of course, the problem I ran into was: all of these things take time! research, Training sessions, bible study, fund raising, phone calls, flight plans, and paperwork didn’t get finished in some sort of quantum vacuum. I was happy to be doing them, but they were minutes I would have otherwise spent… you guessed it—studying or practicing. However, it did teach me an important lesson; my relationship with Christ IS something I have to (and should want to) MAKE time for, not an assignment I can push off until midnight. Umm, hello Shea! We are talking “God of the Universe, King of All Creation wants to have a personal relationship with you” here, not music theory homework!
It also gave me a new sense of purpose. I have a responsibility to the people I will serve in Scotland, to be as well-equipped as I can possibly be. That means my relationship with Christ and my knowledge about His Kingdom has to be the priority, if not for my own sake, then for the sake of others. Maybe that’s not how it should be, but it motivates me for the moment.
So (to conclude this outrageously long entry) hurray! Most of the practical preparation (paperwork, flights, etc) has been completed, and I am free to concentrate fully on the spiritual side of things. As my sweet, former-roommate would say, “Rejoice!”

Aside

Hi! I’m… Who am I exactly? (By Oleta Renee)

So here’s the thing… in trying to introduce myself, I realized I’m in a bit of an identity crisis.

I am originally from New York, Patterson, New York to be exact, and I grew up with my AWESOME puppy raiser around there, but I’ve heard through the grapevine (that is to say Shea and the people we meet on a day to day basis) that labrador retrievers as a race (breed is so demeaning) began in Newfoundland, whereas Newfoundland dogs claim they are routed in Labrador… weird!  So, really, should I even be calling myself a labrador, if we came from Newfoundland, and am I Canadian, or American?  But then, people don’t talk about American or Canadian labs, they talk about American or British labs, which makes no sense at all!  So, am I American, Canadian, or British?  And shouldn’t they be talking about American, Canadian, and British Newfoundlands, not labs? 

People tell me I’m an American Lab (Newfoundland?), which basically means I’m stunningly gorgeous in comparison to those stocky, blocky, British labs.  I am inclined to agree with them.  THere’s no doubt I’m slim, trim, and looking American, right down to the stars and stripes pin on my harness.  Besides, no offense to Canada or England, but America is the best.  I’ll have to expand on that in a future post.

So, with that decided…

Hello, my name is Oleta Renee, and I am a black, American labrador retriever, except I’m actually a labrador guide dog.  Shea is my person/Mom/best friend/partner in…er…completely legal activities.  I have earned my doctoral degree in guide work (attained at the acclaimed University of Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, NY), and went back to receive a human high school diploma with Shea.  I am now currently studying music, with a minor in squirrel management and dog therapy at Shea’s university in Nashville.  By the way, fellow educated canines, if you are thinking about getting a degree in squirrel management, my university is a great place to do it… a lot of practical experience.

Anyway, you will come to know me and more about my work as I post along with Shea on our blog.  I look forward to getting to know y’all as well!  Guide dog friends, make sure you drop in so we can swap guiding tails (see what I did there?).  

Off for a frappuccino on the patio with Mom.  (What? You don’t think she’ll give me a sip?)Image